I’m often asked to speak for church events, women’s organizations, and book clubs. This next month I have two local speaking engagements. One group has asked me to offer a talk about living in Kosovo. I love to talk about my stint in the Balkan country.
The other group has asked me to speak about how I’ve reinvented myself after age fifty-five. I’ve been giving that one a lot of thought. I suppose I see myself as an unfinished novel. Like the characters in my books, my life is always being revised; sometimes by choices I make and other times by events I never saw coming.
I know the group’s leader, Connie, wants me to share how I made a decision to become a published author. We talked about it. I’ve often shared on this blog how I researched the writing world and how I created a rather crude business plan to move from being a professor at a college to a novelist. I had prayed about what I would do when Tom and I left our jobs. The decision to move to Kosovo was more a part of the healing process God had in store for me after Tom died. Not so much a piece of reinventing myself as it was a part of refining me in my new role as Tom’s widow. Through that move, God showed me I still had something to offer.
Many people think of retirement as a time to slow down, Sleep in late, and play more golf. But we’re not wired that way. We are happiest when we are productive and when we are able to contribute. Even Tom, who claimed he was going to golf and fish everyday once he retired, taught a biomechanics class each February in Trinidad, acted as a consultant to others, and continued to author research papers. He couldn’t help it. It was something he loved to do.
My brother-in-law who worked for the telephone company works harder now that he’s retired. He helps rebuild homes and serves on mission trips. He is at this very moment (as I type this) in Panama City Beach, Florida, assessing damage remaining from Hurricane Michael. He’s helping make arrangements for a team of volunteers to serve the people still devastated by the storm’s destruction. In his “down time” he helps my niece with her business.
I have friends at church who spend more time volunteering than they ever did at work. They learn new skills and stretch themselves. And then there’s Charles and Debbie. They’ve kicked this attitude of service up a notch. Charles is the pastor of my Florida church. He was a year behind me in high school. He and Debbie have raised their family, served the church and worked in various areas. Now, yes, now as they are approaching retirement, they have become foster parents. We all know parenting is a 24/7 endeavor.
As Charles explains it, there is a crisis in the foster care system. He and Debbie have the energy, experience, and time. They’re investing themselves in toddlers who need to be loved. These little ones need care –physical and emotional care.
Reinventing? Refining? Revising? Redefining? Whatever you call it, life is an ongoing process. And those who are the happiest are the ones not standing still in the middle of it.